On paper the UK labour economy is one of the best in the world. Employment rates are at an all-time high and wages for the lowest earners are growing at their fastest rate for 20 years. However, much of this ‘employment’ is in zero hours or ‘gig’ work and actual pay remains below the pre-financial crisis levels – in 1999 only 3.4% workers were on the NMW, in 2016 this had more than doubled to 7.1%.
The gig economy, zero hours contracts, agency staff and the evolution of employment practices have greatly reduced job security across many industries – something the Prime Minister will have been well aware of on 9th June 2017. This increased insecurity has resulted in uncertainty around entitlement to sick pay, holiday pay, parental pay and unfair dismissal rights for many British workers.
This week, the Taylor Review – or Good Work Report – was published to address these issues. The report follows nine months of research and was undertaken by Matthew Taylor, a former policy advisor to Tony Blair. The 116 page report makes several suggestions, the headline points from the report are as follows:
- Keep the distinction between employee and worker but rename workers ‘dependent contractors’
- Adapt recent case law (Uber/Deliveroo etc.) to define employment status – possibly via secondary legislation
- Amend NMW law to allow employers to not pay gig economy workers who are contracted via apps the NMW if there is low demand/no work as it is ‘output work’ but increase the NMW rate for this kind of work and other non-guaranteed hours
- Treat workers as employed for tax and NI purposes
- Extend right to written T&Cs to workers – this must be given on first working day and include description of statutory rights
- Preserve continuous employment for gaps of up to one month
- Give agency and zero-hours contractors the right to request direct employment and/or guaranteed hours after 12 months
- Abolish the Swedish derogation for agency work which allows employers to pay agency staff less than directly employed staff
- Make SSP and holiday pay available to all workers
- Allow prospective Claimants free preliminary hearings to determine whether an employment status issue – the burden of proof would be on the employer
Some of these suggestions are better than others. I mean, dependent contractors? Seriously? Case has already stated that gig-economy staff are workers so why redefine it? However, some ideas are very progressive and should be given praise – free preliminary hearings could save litigating parties a lot of time and cost in the long run.
On the other hand, the report is lacking teeth in some areas. Many were calling for a ban on zero-hours contracts whilst others were hoping for better rights for workers, not rebranding and sloganism – heck, even the Taylor Review itself has been rebranded as the Good Work Report!